Xbox’s future lineup could go worryingly stale if these studio closures keep up

Xbox is closing multiple Bethesda studios: a decision that’s met with a wave of criticism. On top of how awful these closures are for everybody affected, there’s also the confusion they leave behind for the gaming industry in general. For the Xbox team to cheer its studios and their creativity at one moment and then turn around to dismantle those studios the next is a great way to encourage uncertainty and frustration. What does it mean for Microsoft’s studios, when even producing a game like Hi-Fi Rush, which surpassed pretty much every goal you can think of, isn’t enough to ensure the survival of the studio which made it?This will be a big issue when it comes to trust for both Xbox’s studios and its fans. Beyond that, though, is the fact that this doesn’t bode well for the future of Xbox when it comes to its games and its developers. We’ve had wave after wave of bad news about layoffs, and along with talented people losing their jobs comes a lack of trust in the industry. If major companies like Microsoft, Sony, EA, and Take-Two can layoff hundreds of employees, then how are developers supposed to be sure that they can put their full creative freedom and passion into their work without the nagging fear that even a successful game isn’t enough to save their jobs?

If developers are less confident in the jobs being offered, then it puts a real restriction on the amount of new talent going into these major studios. New ideas, new enthusiasm, and new blood can be vital to popular franchises and new IP alike, keeping long-running franchises from becoming stale and pushing the boundaries on ambitious new projects.

And that’s another problem. Take Hi-Fi Rush. It wasn’t a safe, generic entry into a widely popular genre, but an unusual and inventive new project. And it was a huge hit, winning praise and awards alike. While there was speculation about how well Hi-Fi Rush might have done since earnings-wise, Xbox’s Aaron Greenberg described it as “a break out hit for us and our players in all key measurements and expectations” and that they “couldn’t be happier with what the team at Tango Gameworks delivered with this surprise release.” On top of that, Bethesda’s Todd Vaughn called Hi-Fi Rush “one of the most successful launches for Bethesda and Xbox in recent years,” also adding that it “generated significant positive momentum for the business and Tango.” And after proving they were right to take the risk with Hi-Fi Rush, Tango Gameworks has now been shut down.

Why studio closures don't bode well for the quality of Xbox's future line-up

To be fair, we don’t know all the inside info behind these studio closures — the research and decision-making processes which might go into deciding which studios to keep open and why. But if you have an example right there of a studio which took a risk and saw it pay off with a hit game only to be closed the following year, then it’s not exactly encouraging developers to continue taking risks with ambitious, boundary-pushing projects. Games which challenge genres or introduce completely fresh ideas can be a great way of kickstarting innovation across the industry, but it’ll likely feel like even more of a concern to chase those ideas after developments like this.

What we need to keep seeing from Xbox’s future lineup is new potential. There are hiccups with this — Redfall was an exciting idea but the reality was wobblier. And even if it hadn’t been a big earner, Hi-Fi Rush showed what could happen if Microsoft were open to range, risk, and new ideas. Hellblade 2 is another example of both an exciting Xbox game and a more niche (and therefore arguably riskier) project. Smaller games might not make all the money in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re not incredibly valuable in other ways. Will Senua end up being counted out of Xbox’s future too even if it’s a success with players and critics?

And sure, bigger games and bigger franchises will usually make more money. But surely one reason to acquire new studios is to keep innovating, to search out fresh potential and new projects which could turn into the next best-selling franchise. Bringing out excellent new games is one way to keep right up there with all the major players. There are some incredible upcoming Xbox exclusives on the horizon, and there are always more great additions to our list of upcoming Game Pass games, but the horizons for Xbox games need to grow wider, not narrower due to closures and layoffs. Hopefully, June’s Xbox Games Showcase will bring us a little more clarification on Xbox’s future plans.

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